05 November 2007

Italians in the Confederate Army

Confederate flag in Italia

We have visited Civitella del Tronto a couple times as this ridge-top fortress and town provide fantastic views of the surrounding countryside and there are some great places to eat. We visited the fortress once before last winter and were there again in October with Valerie’s sister. The fortress marked the boundary area between the Papal States and the southern Kingdom of Naples and at over 500 meters long is quite impressive. This was also a last hold-out against the Italian unification forces and was destroyed by that conquering army.

The fortress has since been restored and provides great panoramas and a museum. On our previous visit we were not too interested in the museum section but on this visit we happened into one room that had a US Confederate flag on the wall which naturally caught our attention. There was a small display about some of the Italian regiments who fought on the side of the Confederacy in the US Civil War. I do not consider myself ignorant on American history but I must admit that I did not realize there were entire units on the side of the Confederacy consisting solely of Italians who had left Italy after the unification.

I tried to search some on the internet to get more detail about the portion of Italian-American history but my search came up lacking. Sounds like a great dissertation for an American-Italian college student.


maryhitt said...

Bryan, you might find some of this informaiton interesting. I, too, was not aware of this. I found the following infomration on the NIAF website, http://www.niaf.org/research/contribution.asp:

"Giuseppe Garibaldi, who led Italy to unification in 1861, was offered a command as Major General in the Union Army by President Lincoln. Garibaldi declined, but to honor him, the 39th New York Infantry was known as the Garibaldi Guard. About 150 of its 850 men were Italian. It fought in the Union Army from Bull Run to Appomattox."

"More than 100 Italian Americans served as officers in the Union forces during the Civil War including 4 generals; 2 naval commanders; 11 naval officers; 9 colonels and lieutenant colonels; and 28 majors and captains. The exact number is unknown because of the Americanization of Italian surnames and mixed marriages."

"Four Italian Americans became generals during or following their Civil War service: Luigi Palma di Cesnola; Enrico Fardella; Eduardo Ferrero; and Francis Spinola. Gen. Ferrero of the 51st N.Y. Regiment, was among the first Union officers to command black troops. Col. di Cesnola, commander of the 4th NY Cavalry, received the U.S. Congressional Medal of Honor. It was awarded in 1897."

Here are a couple of other web pages with some (limited) information on Italians serving the Confederacy:




Bryan said...

That has some interesting info. Interesting that Garibaldi and his forces served for the North while those who fought against the Italian unification fought for the south.

Anonymous said...

For those interested you may want to read LINCOLN'S FOREIGN LEGION. The first chapter covers Garibaldi and the soldiers who eventually served in both the Confederate and Union armies

Bryan said...

I will have to look for that book. We were recently back in that museo and the Confederate flag is no longer hanging on the wall but the information on the Italian contribution to that war is still there.

Anonymous said...

Chatham Roberdeau Wheat was an ex- US Army Captain and a member of the Louisiana legislature. He assisted Garibaldi in the war to unify Italy. Garibaldi was saddled with many POWs from the losing side. Wheat asked if the POWs could be released from custody on the condition that they accompany him to New Orleans to fight for the south. Garibaldi agreed and 2 thousand men went. They became known as the Italian Guard Brigade. Many returned home after the war as free men.

Anonymous said...

Nemmeno io conoscevo una partecipazione così ampia di soldati borbonici alla guerra confederata. Ci fu una battaglia dove italiani confederati combatterono contro italiani unionisti.
See http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italiani_nella_guerra_civile_americana